by Dick Rozene, Deputation Chair
St. Ann’s, Windham
Today was one of our busiest days of the General Convention. We met as the House of Deputies to continue the discussion on the restructuring and streamlining of TEC operations; we met to hear and participate in the House of Deputies debate on marriage; and we met as a combined House of Deputies and Bishops to receive the operating budget for The Episcopal Church (TEC) over the next three years. The “temperature” in our house has been warm, sometimes edging on hot, but we are moving ahead on our tasks, albeit a bit more slowly than I might prefer.
As we have each day preceding, we began with Eucharist. The sermon was by the Rev. Becca Stevens, founder of Thistle Farms, who is coming to Maine later this year to share her ministry of healing and empowerment among women who have survived prostitution, trafficking, and addiction. The day was topped off by a celebration of Utah at the world famous Salt Lake City tabernacle.
As to the business of the day, Bishop Steve is the vice chair of the very important Joint Committee on Program, Budget, and Finance (PBF). Two bold initiatives have been proposed for the next three years: to 1) allocate $2,000,000 for racial injustice and 2) decrease the financial ask from TEC over the next triennium (from the present 19 % to 18% in 2016, to 16,5% in 2017, and 15% in 2018. After 2019, the church asking would be set at 15%). This will be debated on Thursday, July 2. Think what we could do with more money to spend on mission!
Earlier this week, the House of Bishops approved two liturgies for trial use that will permit same-sex couples to be married in the Episcopal Church, beginning on the first Sunday of Advent of this year. Their action came just days after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples can now be married in all 50 states. Today the House of Deputies concurred.
The two liturgies include a gender-neutral version of the current marriage service in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, as well as a version of a liturgy that was approved in 2012 for blessing same-sex unions that now also provides vows of marriage. These rites do not refer to “man and woman” or “husband and wife,” but instead use “these persons” or “the couple” to refer to the two people being married.
The House of Deputies also concurred with the House of Bishops on Resolution A036, which makes changes to the marriage canons to permit clergy to use either the current Prayer Book marriage rite or one of the trial use liturgies when performing marriages.
Sadly, this morning Deputy Brenda Hamilton had to leave early to be with her dad who suffered a stroke earlier in convention. At lunch today our deputation prayed together for her dad, Richard, Brenda and the family.
Although I’ve been through Salt Lake City before, this is my first time to enjoy this wonderful city. On my one free night, Canon Heidi Shott and I wandered from the Latter Day Saints complex to a modern shopping complex and past a variety of sights. A mixture of old and new, e.g., an operating tower clock originally powered by water in front of the first commercial building constructed in Salt Lake in 1868 and now a bank, a five-story sandstone building literally tucked in between an architecturally magnificent office building and a multi-story building under construction. Salt Lake is a “green” city with numerous LEED certified buildings.
As a first time deputy, I’ve a few observations from my time at the 78th General Convention.
- I never thought I would go to GC –here I am witnessing and participating in the work of The Episcopal Church.
- I’ve never taken part in a march, yet on Sunday I eagerly participated in the march against gun violence. Stories from gun violence survivors made an indelible impact and strengthened my resolve.
- GC has been humbling –several of us have had active roles in the daily Eucharists. We’ve also struggled with resolutions with monumental impacts on all our people. I hope we go forward with grace.
- GC has been celebratory –we’ve elected a new Presiding Bishop, the first African American to lead our church. We are also looking to restructure the church to respond to the needs of the 21st century. As deputies, we have renewed acquaintances and made new ones. Finally, we’ve met folks who love Maine.
- GC has been a thankful experience – for our own deputies and our bishop; for meeting other diocesan treasurers and sharing stories and challenges, and to see a blend of the experienced deputies helping the 40% who are here for the first time, most of whom are younger than me.
- What did we do before electronic balloting?
The challenge lies before us as Maine deputies is when we return with the energy we’ve accumulated over the last seven days. How will we to share it with the rest of our diocese? I have a feeling that our Presiding Bishop–Elect Michael Curry will help us do that.
As Lee Iaccoca used to say: “Lead, follow, or get out of the way!’